Gyms and fitness enthusiasts have found a way to spice up the sometimes boring and monotonous aerobics and weightlifting. They are now adding mountain climbing to test the strength and endurance gained in the gym.
A number of gyms and mountaineering clubs plan hikes almost every month.
Charles Kamonde, a seasoned hiker who headed the Presidential Awards Scheme at Starehe Boy's Centre for 24 years says if you want to try mountain climbing for the first time, start will less-treacherous hills.
“For beginners, start with smaller ones like Ngong Hills, Longonot, Mua Hills and Iveti (in Machakos). Also walk at the speed of the slowest hiker because tougher terrains lie ahead,” he told BDLife.
Mr Kamonde says that hiking on rugged terrains is a real test for gym-goers because it helps measure if the exercises have strengthened the leg muscles to endure a more strenuous climb. It also helps build strength in the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in the hips, hence easing one into more gruelling workouts in the gym.
Strengthen your core. He says that a climb up the Elephant Hill in August last year remains his most trying hike. He went on the expedition with 12 people whom he says were keen to test their handwork after months in the gym.
“We took about four hours to get to the top of the treacherous hill, where security personnel known for their high fitness levels take close to eight hours. It was a reflection of high endurance levels from the climbers,” he says.
To go up and down the steep, rugged hills can be a nightmare to most new climbers due to the immense strain on the muscles and harsh conditions.
“Like getting to the peak of the Elephant Hill in Aberdare Ranges, one can get attitude sickness due to the depletion of oxygen. Balaclavas and scarves come in handy to cover the mouth and ensure one does not inhale extremely cold air,” says Mr Kamonde.
The outdoor adventurer adds that hiking is fast gaining popularity especially among women who are pushed by the desire to prove that indeed they are as strong as their male counterparts are.
Mr Kamonde says that climbers pay Sh2,500 for transport and lunch and there can be an extra cost especially if they are passing through national parks that charge a fee. He has been organising one-day hikes since 2016 especially on Saturdays.
Climbing Batian Peak on Mt Kenya planned for August this year, he says, is a worth a try. “Seven months will give most people enough time to work out in their gyms and prepare well,” he says.
Charles Odongo who has been a gym instructor for over 15 years at Bees Park Fitness in Nairobi's Ongata Rongai says hikes help clubs and gyms attract new members and at the same time appreciate their clients.
“Hiking is celebrating a milestones, it is a way of helping them see if the exercises are working,” he says.
The gym organised its first hike for members in December last year, drawing at least 40 members eager to test their fitness on a treacherous 14-kilometrre section between Ngong Hills and Kona Baridi in Kajiado.
In March, there will be another hike to Mount Longonot as the gym looks to organise three such outdoor adventures every year.
He adds that most fitness participants who sign up are women.
“They are more driven into being fit and they also love outdoor adventure compared to men,” the gym instructor says.